Yesterday morning, in between patients, one of the optical consultants asked me a question about cosmetic contact lenses.  She had a patient on the phone wanting to know our opinion of them.

As I had nothing else to do, I decided to have a chat with the girl on the phone and answer her questions.  From now on, she’ll be referred to as HG (Halloween Girl).

First thing, I introduced myself as the optometrist and asked what she’d like to know.  She asked if they were safe – I answered only if they were supplied and fitted by a registered optometrist or contact lens optician.

There was a pause.  HG had been into a shop selling cosmetic lenses over the counter.  She wanted to buy some white ones as a finishing touch to her Halloween costume.  HG had asked the man in the shop about them and if they had any power in them.

No, the man had replied.

I’ll need to wear my specs then, HG had said.

Oh, no, he insisted. You can just wear them under your contact lenses.

I explained why that was a bad idea (hypoxia being the main issue, poor vision being a bit lower on the list).  I was happy to hear that she hadn’t bought the lenses from him and had decided to call her optician to ask about them.

She asked if we could supply her with the white lenses she wanted.

I explained that we don’t stock novelty lenses like that but we do have lenses that alter the colour of your eyes (Freshlook) or highlight your eyes in some way (Illuminate, etc).  I also said that, depending on her prescription, she may even be able to get them to correct her vision.

She was really quite enthusiastic about them, changing her mind from wanting white eyes to having green eyes.  I had to bring her crashing down to earth, though, by telling her she’d need to come in for a lens consultation and then we’d have to order lenses.  Given that Halloween was two days away, she probably wouldn’t get her green lenses on time.

Oh, that’s okay, I can buy them now and have them for next year, she said.  How much are they?

I didn’t know the price off the top of my head so I gave her a ballpark figure for the Freshlook (based on their price in my old practice, sad to say).

At this point, I thought she would decide it would be too expensive for one night.  Instead, HG was still very enthusiastic.

Well, that’s not too bad if they last a year.

Alarm bells started ringing at that point.  So I had to explain that the lenses lasted a month.  Once they were opened they lasted 30 days then you had to throw them away.  It was like opening a carton of milk and then throwing it away when it went off (usually after five days).  From the moment she opened the lens packet, the clock was ticking.

But what if I only wear them 30 times over a year? Can I not just keep them in the case in solution?

Again, I had to explain that lenses shouldn’t be kept in solution for more than a day at a time because the disinfecting power of the solution decreases over time.  So, even if she’s not wearing her lenses, she should still change the solution on a regular basis and remember to discard the lenses after a month.

Apparently HG didn’t know any of this.

As a contact lens wearer, no-one had ever told her about this (or, if they had, it didn’t register).

After a hopefully illuminating chat (on her part)/a shocking indictment of contact lens education (on my part), we finally ended the call.  I was completely stunned that someone would advise anyone to wear two contact lenses, even if just for a few hours on a Friday night.  I’m not even sure of the material these lenses are made from (maybe a hydrogel?).  I was also saddened that the recent reporting on the dangers of these illegal lenses still hadn’t filtered down enough.

At the end of the call, I told HG to Google cosmetic contact lenses and have look at the recent news reports (this was in response to her repeatedly saying, “But if they are that bad, why can I still buy them?”*).

It occurred to me only after I’d hung up that I should’ve asked which shop she’d almost bought her lenses from.

Anyway, next week I’ll be fitting a patient with two lenses (in each eye) but don’t worry, I’m trying the piggyback method of fitting an RGP on a patient with keratoconus.  Fingers crossed it’s both comfy and the vision is good ( -9.00 cyls!).  That’s probably worth a blog post on it’s own.

* I did explain that they were illegal at the beginning of our conversation but, by the end, I wanted to shout “Because CIGARETTES” at her.